HL Deb 30 July 1914 vol 17 cc294-6

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill seeks to put an end to a traffic which has been the cause of intense and abominable cruelty, and which has roused much public indignation. A large trade in worn-out and decrepit horses exists between this country and Belgium, the fact that a vast majority of these horses are unfit for further work proving that they are intended to be slaughtered on the other side for human consumption. An Act of Parliament was passed in 1910 to regulate this traffic, but it did not go far enough. Section 1 of that Act says that it shall not be lawful to ship or attempt to ship any horse which is not capable of being conveyed to such port or disembarked without cruelty. We submit that a horse which is unfit for further work should not be subjected to the cruelty and suffering that may be entailed on the voyage across.

It has been said that the Act of 1910 prevented weak and ailing horses being shipped, but the facts are otherwise. In November and December of 1913, 5,046 horses were shipped from Great Britain to Antwerp; of these, eight died during the voyage and four were slaughtered at the dock, whilst seventy-one were conveyed in floats from the dock, being unable to walk. All those horses had passed the inspector appointed under the Act. The Act says that no horse shall be on board if it is not capable of being conveyed without suffering or cruelty. What. I have said proves that a vast number of these 5,016 horses did undergo suffering and cruelty. So much for the cruelty on this side.

It is impossible to deny that cruelty does exist on the other side. I hope I may be allowed to read an extract from a letter written to Captain Murray, who had charge of the Bill in another place, by Miss Cole, whom Captain Murray described as a lady who has done more in the interests of these horses than any other human being and whose evidence no one would attempt to disprove. Miss Cole says— Every Monday afternoon when our horses leave quarantine stables marked for death (and liable to wait ten days for that one possible boon) they are beyond all protection, and are considered simply as so much living meat. On the railway some are without food and water for forty-eight hours. Some fall and are trampled under foot. On the road they go twenty-eight miles or more, and arrive sweating, limping, and exhausted. They fall. One fell in Antwerp in daylight, and the drover, who kicked it till an eye was smashed and the mouth bleeding, was not punished or even threatened. (This was not on a Monday—it was a horse leaving for Brussels on Wednesday, exhausted for want of food.) They suffer hunger and thirst before death, and are more often than not cruelly killed. Two people told me that they protested against cruelty to horses marked for death, and received the same answer that they were for killing. Nearly all our old horses 'are for killing.' They are marked for it, and that means that their suffering does not matter. Please remember that this is true of the greater number of our old horses sent here every week. From my own experience in regard to France, the cruelty to the horses there, I fear, is at least as bad. That quotation needs no comment. It is true we are not answerable for cruelty that occurs on the other side of the water, but we can remove the cause by ensuring that these worn-out horses shall be slaughtered on this side.

It has been said that the importers will not import dead meat if they cannot get live horses, and in that way a stop would be put to a profitable industry. But though in the case of Belgium they will not import carcases they will import dead meat. Not long ago a cargo of several hundred tons of dead meat was imported front the Argentine, a small tax being put upon it. And in the the case of Holland there are sent there some thousands of carcases of horses slaughtered on this side as being unfit to travel. If the traffic in live horses is stopped the trade will in all probability soon settle down to the altered conditions, for the Belgians will have their horsemeat. I do not think it is necessary for me to say anything more in support of the Bill, and I beg to move that it be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(Lord Leigh.)


My Lords, perhaps I ought to say, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, that they give cordial approval to this Bill, and I think the noble Lord and those associated with him in this matter deserve the congratulations of a great many people upon their success in bringing the Bill this session so near success as they have done, and I am sure that all humanitarians will rejoice to think that the Bill will become law at an early date. I do not know whether the noble Lord has considered the date for taking the Committee stage, but I would suggest one day in the middle of next week.


I will put it down for Tuesday.

On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.

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